, Volume 44, Issue 4, pp 285–296 | Cite as

Factors influencing local ecological knowledge maintenance in Mediterranean watersheds: Insights for environmental policies

  • Irene Iniesta-Arandia
  • David García del Amo
  • Ana Paula García-Nieto
  • Concepción Piñeiro
  • Carlos Montes
  • Berta Martín-López


Local ecological knowledge (LEK) has been found to be one of the main bridges to manage biocultural diversity. We analyzed the factors affecting LEK maintenance and transmission in a Mediterranean watershed. We used a mixed methods approach to evaluate the agricultural LEK in three different dimensions: biological, soil and water management, and forecasting. We found that the main factors for its maintenance were the respondent's time living in the area and the social relationships established among farmers, which involved partner collaboration and farmer information exchanges. Protected areas also played a key role for maintaining the LEK associated with soil and water management. Finally, we found that outmigration and mechanization were the most important indirect drivers of change underlying LEK erosion. We suggest that environmental policies should focus on promoting this experiential knowledge, considering both intergenerational renewal and the gendered aspects of this knowledge.


Drivers of change Gender Protected area Semi-arid areas Traditional agriculture Traditional ecological knowledge 



We thank all the people from the Nacimiento Comarca and Cecilio Oyonarte who kindly collaborated with us during fieldwork. We thank Erik Gómez-Baggethun for his help during the early stages of the research. We also thank two anonymous reviewers, the editors and Marina García-Llorente for their inspiring comments on a previous draft. This research was funded by the Spanish Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness (project CGL2011-30266).

Supplementary material

13280_2014_556_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (69 kb)
Supplementary material 1 (PDF 69 kb)


  1. Altieri, M.A., and V.M. Toledo. 2005. Natural resource management among small-scale farmers in semi-arid lands: Building on traditional knowledge and agroecology. Annals of Arid Zone 44: 365–385.Google Scholar
  2. Barthel, S., F. Carl, and C. Johan. 2010. Social–ecological memory in urban gardens—Retaining the capacity for management of ecosystem services. Global Environmental Change 20: 255–265.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Berkes, F. 2004. Rethinking community-based conservation. Conservation Biology 18: 621–630.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Berkes, F. 2008. Sacred Ecology, 2nd ed. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  5. Berkes, F., J. Colding, and C. Folke. 2000. Rediscovery of traditional ecological knowledge as adaptive management. Ecological Applications 10: 1251–1262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Blanckaert, I., K. Vancraeynest, R.L. Swennen, F.J. Espinosa-García, D. Piñero, and R. Lira-Saade. 2007. Non-crop resources and the role of indigenous knowledge in semi-arid production of Mexico. Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment 119: 39–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Blondel, J., J. Aronson, J.-Y. Bodiou, and G. Boeuf. 2010. The Mediterranean Region Biological Diversity in Space and Time. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Brandth, B. 2002. Gender identity in European family farming: A literature review. Sociologia Ruralis 42: 181–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Brook, R.K., and S.M. McLachlan. 2008. Trends and prospects for local knowledge in ecological and conservation research and monitoring. Biodiversity and Conservation 17: 3501–3512.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bugalho, M.N., M.C. Caldeira, J.S. Pereira, J. Aronson, and J.G. Pausas. 2011. Mediterranean cork oak savannas require human use to sustain biodiversity and ecosystem services. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment 9: 278–286.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Camarero, L., and R. Sampedro. 2008. Why are women leaving? The mobility continuum as an explanation of rural masculinization process. Revista Española de Investigaciones Sociológicas 124: 73–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Carvalho, A.M., and A. Frazão-Moreira. 2011. Importance of local knowledge in plant resources management and conservation in two protected areas from Trás-os-Montes, Portugal. Journal of Ethnobiology and Ethnomedicine 7: 36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Davidson-Hunt, I., and F. Berkes. 2003. Learning as you journey: Anishinaabe perception of social-ecological environments and adaptive learning. Conservation Ecology 8: article 5.Google Scholar
  14. Davis, A., and K. Ruddle. 2010. Constructing confidence: Rational skepticism and systematic enquiry in local ecological knowledge research. Ecological Applications 20: 880–894.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Davis, A., and J.R. Wagner. 2003. Who knows? On the importance of identifying “experts” when researching local ecological knowledge. Human Ecology 31: 463–489.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Deda, P., and R. Rubian. 2004. Women and biodiversity: The long journey from users to policy-makers. Natural Resources Forum 28: 201–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Doré, T., D. Makowski, E. Malézieux, N. Munier-Jolain, M. Tchamitchian, and P. Tittonell. 2011. Facing up to the paradigm of ecological intensification in agronomy: Revisiting methods, concepts and knowledge. European Journal of Agronomy 34: 197–210.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. EME—Evaluación de los Ecosistemas del Milenio de España. 2011. Ecosistemas y biodiversidad para el bienestar humano. Síntesis de los Resultados. Madrid: Fundación Biodiversidad.Google Scholar
  19. Espín, R., E. Ortiz, and J.R. Guzmán. 2010. Manual del acequiero. Parques Nacional y Natural de Sierra Nevada. Agencia Andaluza del Agua. Consejería de Medio Ambiente. Junta de Andalucía.Google Scholar
  20. EEA—European Environmental Agency. 2010. Europe’s Ecological Backbone: Recognising the True Value of Our Mountains. Copenhagen.Google Scholar
  21. Fernández-Giménez, M.E., and F. Fillat Estaque. 2012. Pyrenean Pastoralists’ ecological knowledge: Documentation and application to natural resource management and adaptation. Human Ecology 40: 287–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Fischer, J., T. Hartel, and T. Kuemmerle. 2012. Conservation policy in traditional farming landscapes. Conservation Letters 5: 167–175.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Folke, C., A. Jansson, J. Rockstrom, P. Olsson, S.R. Carpenter, G. Daily, K. Danell, J. Ebbesson, et al. 2011. Reconnecting to the biosphere. AMBIO 40: 719–738.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. García-Llorente, M., B. Martín-López, I. Iniesta-Arandia, C.A. López-Santiago, P.A. Aguilera, and C. Montes. 2012. The role of multi-functionality in social preferences toward semi-arid rural landscapes: An ecosystem service approach. Environmental Science & Policy 19–20: 136–146.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Gómez-Baggethun, E., and V. Reyes-García. 2013. Reinterpreting change in traditional ecological knowledge. Human Ecology 41: 643–647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Gómez-Baggethun, E., S. Mingorría, V. Reyes-García, L. Calvet, and C. Montes. 2010. Traditional ecological knowledge trends in the transition to a market economy: Empirical study in the Doñana natural areas. Conservation Biology 24: 721–729.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Gómez-Baggethun, E., V. Reyes-García, P. Olsson, and C. Montes. 2012. Traditional ecological knowledge and community resilience to environmental extremes: A case study in Doñana, SW Spain. Global Environmental Change 22: 640–650.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Gorenflo, L.J., S. Romaine, R.A. Mittermeier, and K. Walker-Painemilla. 2012. Co-occurrence of linguistic and biological diversity in biodiversity hotspots and high biodiversity wilderness areas. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 109: 8032–80376.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Hernández-Morcillo, M., J. Hoberg, E. Oteros-Rozas, T. Plieninger, E. Gómez-Baggethun, and V. Reyes-García. 2014. Traditional ecological knowledge in Europe: Status quo and insights for the Environmental Policy Agenda. Environment: Science and Policy for Sustainable Development 56: 3–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Huntington, H.P. 2000. Using traditional ecological knowledge in science: Methods and applications. Ecological Applications 10: 1270–1274.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Iniesta-Arandia, I., C. Piñeiro, C. Montes, and B. Martín-López. 2014. Women and the conservation of agroecosystems: An experiential analysis in the Río Nacimiento region of Almería (Spain)/Mujeres y conservación de agroecosistemas. Análisis de experiencias en la comarca almeriense del río Nacimiento. Psyecology: Revista Bilingüe de Psicología Ambiental/Bilingual Journal of Environmental Psychology: 1–17. doi: 10.1080/21711976.2014.942516.
  32. MARM—Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Medio Rural y Marino. 2011. Diagnóstico de la Igualdad de Género en el Medio Rural. Madrid: Ministerio de Medio Ambiente y Medio Rural y Marino.Google Scholar
  33. Martín-López, B., M. García-Llorente, I. Palomo, and C. Montes. 2011. The conservation against development paradigm in protected areas: Valuation of ecosystem services in the Doñana social–ecological system (southwestern Spain). Ecological Economics 70: 1481–1491.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Martín-López, B., I. Iniesta-Arandia, M. García-Llorente, I. Palomo, I. Casado-Arzuaga, D. García del Amo, E. Gómez-Baggethun, E. Oteros-Rozas, et al. 2012. Uncovering ecosystem services bundles through social preferences: Experimental evidence from Spain. PLoS ONE 7: e38970.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Naredo, J.M. 2004. La evolución de la agricultura en España (19402000). Granada: Universidad de Granada.Google Scholar
  36. Ostrom, E. 1990. Governing the Commons: The Evolution of Institutions for Collective Action. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Ostrom, E. 2009. A general framework for analyzing sustainability of social-ecological systems. Science 325: 419–422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Oteros-Rozas, E., R. Ontillera-Sánchez, P. Sanosa, E. Gómez-Baggethun, V. Reyes-García, and J.A. González. 2013. Traditional ecological knowledge among transhumant pastoralists in Mediterranean Spain. Ecology and Society 18: 33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Perrings, C., L. Jackson, K. Bawa, L. Brussaard, S. Brush, T. Gavin, R. Papa, U. Pascual, et al. 2006. Biodiversity in agricultural landscapes: Saving natural capital without losing interest. Conservation Biology 20: 263–264.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Pfeiffer, J.M., and R.J. Butz. 2005. Assessing cultural and ecological variation in ethnobiological research: The importance of gender. Journal of Ethnobiology 25: 240–278.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Pilgrim, S., D. Smith, and J. Pretty. 2007. A cross-regional assessment of the factors affecting ecoliteracy: Implications for policy and practice. Ecological Applications 17: 1742–1751.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Plieninger, T., F. Höchtl, and T. Spek. 2006. Traditional land-use and nature conservation in European rural landscapes. Environmental Science & Policy 9: 317–321.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pretty, J., B. Adams, F. Berkes, S. Ferreira de Athayde, N. Dudley, E. Hunn, L. Maffi, K. Milton, et al. 2009. The intersections of biological diversity and cultural diversity: Towards integration. Conservation and Society 7: 100–112.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Pulido-Bosch, A., and Y. Ben Sbih. 1995. Centuries of artificial recharge on the southern edge of the Sierra Nevada (Granada, Spain). Environmental Geology 26: 57–63.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Rescia, A.J., B.A. Willaarts, M.F. Schmitz, and P.A. Aguilera. 2010. Changes in land uses and management in two Nature Reserves in Spain: Evaluating the social–ecological resilience of cultural landscapes. Landscape and Urban Planning 98: 26–35.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Reyes-García, V., S. Vila, L. Mata-Aceituno, L. Calvet-Mir, T. Garnatje, A. Jesch, J.J. Lastra, M. Parada, et al. 2010. Gendered homegardens: A study in three mountain areas of the Iberian Peninsula. Economic Botany 64: 235–247.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sánchez-Picón, A., J.A. Aznar-Sánchez, and J. García-Latorre. 2011. Economic cycles and environmental crisis in arid southeastern Spain. A historical perspective. Journal of Arid Environments 75: 1360–1367.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Sevilla Guzmán, E. 1979. La evolución del campesinado en España: elementos para una sociología política del campesinado. Barcelona: Ediciones Península.Google Scholar
  49. Tengö, M., E.S. Brondizio, T. Elmqvist, P. Malmer, and M. Spierenburg. 2014. Connecting diverse knowledge systems for enhanced ecosystem governance: The multiple evidence base approach. AMBIO 43: 579–591.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Toledo, V.M., and N. Barrera-Bassols. 2008. La memoria biocultural. La importancia ecológica de las sabidurías tradicionales. Barcelona: Editorial Icaria.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Irene Iniesta-Arandia
    • 1
  • David García del Amo
    • 1
  • Ana Paula García-Nieto
    • 1
    • 2
  • Concepción Piñeiro
    • 1
    • 3
  • Carlos Montes
    • 1
  • Berta Martín-López
    • 1
  1. 1.Social-Ecological Systems Laboratory, Department of Ecology, Edificio de BiologíaUniversidad Autónoma de MadridMadridSpain
  2. 2.Institut Méditerranéen de Biodiversité et d’Ecologie marine et continentale (IMBE), Aix Marseille Université, CNRS, IRD, Avignon UniversitéAix-en-Provence Cedex 04France
  3. 3.Altekio, Initiatives for Sustainability S. Coop. MadMadridSpain

Personalised recommendations